In the wake of March's tepid jobs creation, it may be time to take a harder look at this soft patch.
Even ahead of Friday's employment report, concerns were mounting about a growing pile of weak data. JPMorgan's economic research team cut their first quarter GDP growth forecast to a mere 0.6 percent on Thursday, citing poor consumer spending data.
Recent manufacturing data have also looked especially bad, with the ISM manufacturing index's March reading showing the slowest growth since May 2013. Separately, housing market indicators have been mixed, perhaps due to the harsh winter weather.
Amid all of the concerns, many economists have held out hope because of the string of strong employment reports, which have indicated that growth remains strong where it matters most.
Now, that story changed after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a mere 126,000 jobs were created in March, compared to broad expectations of another 200,00-plus report.
"While the jobs report was disappointing, in some ways it confirms what we already know," commented Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy with Brown Brothers Harriman. "The U.S. economy slowed markedly in Q1 2015."
In the 45 minutes of futures trading that followed the report (which was released on a day when the stock market was closed for the Good Friday holiday) S&P 500 futures fell by 1 percent, while bond futures marched higher. In the currency market, the U.S. dollar fell sharply across the board.
While the jobs number may have somewhat shifted expectations about when the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates, these moves are all consonant with shifting perceptions of the American economy—and not with shifting expectations about the Fed. After all, with all else being equal, a more dovish Fed would be good rather than bad for stocks.